2.28.2012

Nepal in Pictures pt. 2

Bhaktapur Durbar Square





Wheat and mustard seed fields, most vibrant greens

Bodnath Stupa

Phewa Lake, Pokhara, Nepal



"Every look in search of You..."


Creation

Mount Machapuchare looming

2.27.2012

While I was away & Moving Forward

Two Sundays ago I was getting ready to leave for Nepal so I woke up, helped make the food but had to depart before getting to pass it out. It felt like leaving without saying goodbye to my fifty children and I just felt off. Luckily I have amazing friends that have become equally as invested in Asha Guwahati who take great care of these children week in and out alongside me. Add into that the string of volunteers that come to the surgical center who always are willing to help and I knew that the kids would be taken great care of in my absence. Rosie wrote to me last week saying that Puja, one of the girls from the slum, helped pass out most of the food and they just sat back and enjoyed! How awesome is that?! I always feel so sad when I leave, especially on Sundays, but seeing these pictures puts the biggest smile on my face!







This week Asha Guwahati took some big steps forward! Rosie and I went out on Saturday and purchased the largest pressure cooker and rice cooker that we could find. Thanks to everyone's generous donations we are now able to more efficiently make the food which also enables us to make more meals. If you have had the opportunity to help us here then you know that previously we were having to make all the meals in batches and it took hours. Yesterday we found ourselves twiddling our thumbs after about one hour! This week we stuck to our normal amount to test the equipment out but next week we are increasing by 50% then doubling the following week if all goes as planned. That will equal 100 meals per feeding. I think 75 is enough to cover every child and adolescent in Lakhtokia. I have my eye on a group of about 15 or so that have appeared by the train station so that will be who the additional meals go to. Also, a friend who is local gave me some very exciting news this week which I will share more about later, good things are happening in the heart of Guwahati my friends, thanks for sticking along for the ride!





2.26.2012

Nepal in Pictures Part 1

On Friday I arrived back from a very great trip North to Nepal!! The first week I spent teaching CPR classes during the day in Kathmandu at a small, small hospital. In the afternoons/evenings we headed out to see the sights and by the end of the week, I checked everything off my list of places I wanted to see in the city. I will write more later but for now here are pictures from the first four days!

 Kirtipur hospital 

 We taught around 16-18 people each day!


 The most traditional Nepalese meal, dal bhat

Stairs leading to Swayambhutnath Temple 




 Sunset over Kathmandu Valley

 Underdeveloped world problems: having to wash gloves for reuse. 

 Kirtipur (was once a kingdom)

 Brand new Nepalese baby catching some rays and getting bathed/massaged by Grammy

 Three babies catching rays with Grandmas!

 Rooftop dining in an old village

 This is how aila is poured


Y.U.M.

2.20.2012

I can't help but scan over the children of the slums feet everytime I see them. Or the patients as they lay in bed recovering. The feet of these children are hard and rough, some run deep with wounds. Its as if their soles alone tell the story of their lives. Hard and rough and sometimes running deep with pain. Every once and a while when we arrive to hand the meals out there is a new injury on someone's foot which I later come back to clean. I usually return by myself after buying soap, gauze and a clean cloth. I walk in and no one bothers me but the injured child comes right up, knowing why I am there. We find a 'quiet' spot and I squat down to clean. In this act of cleaning there is significance beyond taking care of a wound. In many eastern cultures a person's feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest place on the body. One should not touch another with their feet or point the soles of their feet at someone. A servant washes his masters feet, that is why the biblical tale of Jesus washing the disciples feet carries such weight. This sentiment still rings true in this part of the world. Your feet are the vessel that carry you through life and in a culture that still struggles with castes, one look at a persons feet and you can guess if they would be the servant or the served. That is a barrier I fear will never be broken... So I wash. We wash. We clean.  It may be one hurting foot at a time or thirty pairs at a street kids day,  but as I stoop down to wash the injured and dirtied feet of these children I hope they know I am theirs. I am their servant because I am His. 

2.08.2012

What would it feel like

What would it feel like to find out you are with child? What would it feel like to carry the pregnancy out while continuing to work in the tea fields day and night? To continue doing manual labor, to not be able to receive prenatal care, to give birth at home or in a field far from help? What would it feel like to give birth to a baby with a cleft condition? To have your hopes shattered in a society where it is considered unacceptable to have a child with a deformity.

What would it feel like to be told as a mother, this condition was caused by your bad luck. Maybe you cut a fish while pregnant, or conceived during a lunar eclipse or had bad karma. What would it feel like to have the blame placed on your back as a mother, as a woman who wants nothing more than to birth a healthy child? How do your feel in those first moments, as you take it all in? I am not a mother, I have never carried a child, given birth or been told that my child is unworthy of life. I can not even begin to imagine what it would feel like.

What would it feel like to step into a hospital in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by foreign faces. After months or years of being told it was all your fault, what would it feel like to learn that you are not to blame? Is it too late to change that heaviness in your heart? What would it feel like to see your child treated by others as a beautiful and perfect being? That beautiful and perfect child that you as a mother always saw?

I wouldn't share this if it wasn't something we experience here every day. Sometimes I feel like if I talk about these realities that it will come across like those television ads with pictures of starving children with flies all over them, asking for sponsorship. But you guys, this is a reality. This is happening every single day when it shouldn't be. Mother's being outcasted from their family for giving birth to a baby who has a cleft lip or palate. Being told it is their fault, not having food provided for them or their child. Babies being dumped in trash bins, placed on train tracks to be killed. It happens too often that the baby is brought to us at the very brink of succumbing to starvation. Their malnourishment is so severe that their immune system is compromised, their skin is covered in sores and sometimes they are so hungry that they suck on their fingers to the point of making the nails come off. Babies who are months old but are the weight of a preemie. Parents who were guided by a doctor to feed their cleft baby twice per day... a tactic used on uneducated parents so that their child will pass away. I don't often feel angry, but this, this makes my head throb with anger. My colleagues developed an amazing nutrition program that gives these babies a chance. The power that was taken away from parents is given back through proper education. Does that heaviness start to lift?

Today we operated on five thousandth patient in Assam. The backlog of clefts has been reduced from approximately 20,000 to 15,000. This patient happened to be one of the very first patients in our nutrition program. In July she came to us in need of serious support, seven months later she is at the proper weight and nutritional status to receive a safe surgery. The smile on her mother's face as the baby went back for her operation stretched from ear to ear. She was empowered, supported. We kept our promise made seven months ago, that her beautiful daughter would gain weight if fed properly, that her beautiful daughter would be operated on. That the whole family would be given a chance. What would it feel like, to know that you saved your child?


2.03.2012

'I will see you again, a long time from now...'

Lots of silliness at the old work place this week! We have started recruiting patients from a few new districts which seems to be equalling many young children with unrepaired lips. Add that to the handful of volunteers that have come for the "mission week" and you have a party! The work place has been a little stressful lately, long hours, long weeks, new responsibilities. As I am doing less hands on care (giving it over to the local nurses) I have been making it a point to visit the patients through out the day. If I even feel a tiny twinge of stress I go out to the child life area and sit down to play even if just for five minutes. These three munchkins were the first cases done yesterday and all of them were just making me smile ear to ear. The first little boy (on the left) was so serious and stoic but enjoyed his coloring time! The little girl on the right walked right into the operating room then in the recovery room she insisted on feeding herself juice, arranging her blankets, fixing up her IV line and lounging around. Then there is the little lady in the middle picture. I have not met a personality quite like hers. Pre-operatively I was playing with her when out of nowhere she made the craziest face! It turned into a back and forth of face making that lasted until she walked through those operating room doors. That evening I went down to visit her and she was only funnier! She was going wild, as if she hadn't even had surgery that day. She had my hand in a death grip and told me I wasn't allowed to go! We were making silly noises, crazy eyes and she was pinching my cheeks like I was a chubby little baby! The silliness only ensued this morning and I wondered if this is what she is like here, imagine what a handful she is at home! 


On the team bonding day the student team came over and cooked meals for Asha Guwahati, we went down to the tracks and the passing of the food went so smoothly! What a good team they made and I was so grateful for their help and support. After, we headed to the river for the boat cruise/dance party. As always, I danced away then had to hear about it for the next few days haha. Afterwards, we headed to Umananda Temple aka the monkey temple. It was perhaps the best experience I have ever had at a temple. My friend/coworker who is Hindu explained everything to us, and as we were blessed we weren't asked for a ridiculous donation. It is quite a problem, that you receive the tikka mark or do puja then are asked for hundreds of rupees. It makes me really uncomfortable, especially after watching many locals give a much smaller donation. This temple didn't even force the subject and I gladly gave a small donation. There were a few monkeys which I really enjoyed staring at but overall, the blessing experience was the highlight.





Last night we had a group dinner at my favorite little restaurant around the corner from where I stay. I don't know why or how but the music they were playing might as well have been taken straight from my ipod. I have a huge memory association with music and it hearing some of those songs last night really made me emotional. I think the fact that it was late and I was hungry only made the situation worse. First they played "Only if For a Night" by Florence + The Machine then 'Skinny Love' by Bon Iver and then "Hello I'm In Delaware" by City and Colour. I can not emphasize enough how out of the ordinary it is that I would be hearing this songs, this music is not popular hear and I have never heard this genre played in public. It was so unexpected that when the City and Colour song came on I got super lost in my own thoughts so much so that my friend noticed and asked me what I was thinking about. I told him the music made me think of the states and a different time in my life. He looked at me and said "We are family, I am your brother for when you are missing home." SO SWEET. I immediately welled up with tears and had excuse myself to step outside. He came out to check on me/cheer me up then brought me back inside. As I sat back down I became so thankful to have friends here. My guy friends are the sweetest men in my life. They know how to be friends and wanting nothing more than that. I find it extremely hard to find that in the states. SO thankful for Shamir and his sweetness (though as he left dinner, he made a crying face at me to tease me haha). 

On a related by random note, I have been eating with my hands quite a lot. Cultural immersion at its finest.